On May 8, partners from Mississippi State University s MississippiAgricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, the Natural ResourcesConservation Service, and other natural resources agencies met inJackson to celebrate the completion of an ambitious project: to mapMississippi s soils on the acre level. To map over 30 million acres is a mindboggling scientific andtechnical accomplishment, said Billy Kingery, MAFES scientist andpresident of the Professional Soil Classifiers Association ofMississippi. But it s not simply a map of the soils like a roadmap. This survey also offers suggestions for the uses of soils --we call them interpretations -- to address the needs of people insuch fields as agriculture, urban development, waste-watertreatment and road-building. |
It s a resource for anyone, anywherein the world to use any time of day or night. That s a big deal. Many agencies collaborated to assess the soil types in each county,but the soil scientists who did the field work received specialrecognition at the celebration. The soil survey is not just an effort of NRCS; it s acooperative effort of Mississippi State University, Alcorn StateUniversity, and other state and federal agencies, said Al Garner,acting state conservationist.
But it s the soil scientists, theboots on the ground, who have made this achievement possible. Whenyou open a soil survey, you can see the work of agronomists,engineers, biologists and writers, who have put soil science intolayman s terms and made the interpretations user-friendly, soeveryone can manage the land to preserve soil and water, our mostimportant natural resources. Kingery said that the look and feel of soils is the starting placefor putting them in a taxonomy. You have to put them into groups or classes so there s asystem, he said. Soils have different colors -- some are darkbrown, almost black, and some are reddish or yellow.
They havelayers. That s the beginning of a taxonomy. Some are sandy, siltyor clay-based. Red soil tells you iron has oxidized, gray tells youthe soil is wet, so now we re into water availability anddrainage.
Slope or position in the landscape, climate, age, plantsand microbes and of course the starting or parent material-- all ofthese factors influence the formation and properties of soil. David Pettry, retired MAFES soil scientist, and W.L. GilesDistinguished Professor, said people do not realize the wealth ofsoils in Mississippi. We have eight out of the 12 soil types found in the world, righthere, Pettry said. I call the soil survey a blueprint fordestiny -- it shows what we are capable of and where we re going.The key is to keep our efforts in balance and harmony with nature.How are we going to adapt our practices to make sure theseresources are available for our children and grandchildren? The initial work of the soil survey has been completed, and thenext phase of the project will bring together Mississippi s countymaps.
The original project was laid out by county, but the overallgoal is a seamless, national map based on geographic landformations. The most important message from this celebration is that oursoils are the living foundation of the home and provide for theneeds of the household. We should take care of our soils as if ourlives depended on them, Kingery said. -30- Released: May 10, 2012 Contact: Dr. Billy Kingery, (662) 325-2748 Publications may download image at 200 ppi.
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